Seeing and Seen
Seeing and Seen
Photographs by William Noland
With one exception–a 1994 photograph of a New York Stock Exchange trader on a cigarette break–the images here were taken during a two-year period between May 1999 and June 2001. This was a time of "irrational exuberance", a pre-9/11, Enron world in which "New Economy" hype was in its ascendancy and "globalization" was the watchword of the financial sector. Two distinct groups of portraits are represented: those made on the streets of the financial districts in New York and San Francisco, most often of individuals on their way to or from work, and those made at once-burgeoning dot.com startups in Silicon Valley.
The street photographs depict people moving through public space in capsules of their own thought, each with their own implicit psychological narrative. Set up on the sidewalk with my obtrusive equipment, I was always within the subjects’ field of vision, although most weren’t conscious of my presence. My concern was in isolating moments that would imply a coherence of mood in the stream of reverie. The dot.com photographs here were made at a now defunct investment company that operated a real-time, completely transparent mutual fund. A small cadre of workers created a virtual marketplace from a modest office in South San Francisco, their every trade and its rationale instantly posted on the pages of the website. Behind the dry data of the transactions is the visible and concrete absorption of those making the decisions.
Several things weigh heavily on my reading of the images presented here: the spectacular demise of "New Economy" stocks; the stunning World Trade Center attack; and, most recently, the slow-motion train wreck of budget projections, which in a flash have gone from trillions of dollars in surplus to trillions in deficit. Although these are documents from a time that now seems long ago, they consistently betray an underlying disquiet that feels very much of the moment. -W.N.
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